Missouri men's basketball faces talented Ole Miss without Bowers

Friday, January 11, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi fights for a rebound against Alabama's Nick Jacobs during Tuesday's game against Alabama at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball team will have to adjust to senior Laurence Bowers' absence against a surging Ole Miss team Saturday.

Several players will have expanded roles in the wake of Bowers' MCL sprain that will force him to miss at least two games.

Bowers was hurt after being bumped in the knee in Tuesday's victory over Alabama. His knee will be reevaluated at the end of the week.

"Laurence is doing great, obviously he's disappointed," Missouri coach Frank Haith said in a teleconference Thursday afternoon. "He's handled it very, very well."

Now, Tigers forward Alex Oriakhi will be called on to play more minutes. Throughout the season, Haith has subbed in Bowers at the five position to give Oriakhi a breather.

Oriakhi's asthma has hindered his stamina at times, but conditioning shouldn't be too much of an issue. Oriakhi played 33 minutes against Alabama.

"If his (Oriakhi's) mind is right, he can be productive and stay out of foul trouble," Haith said.

Haith said 6-foot-6 guard Earnest Ross will also get chances to play at the four spot. Ross's role at the position will be versatile, similar to how Kim English played the four position last season. Ross's shooting and driving abilities will stretch Ole Miss' defense.

Bowers' absence will be felt in the rebounding statistics. Bowers was averaging 6.9 rebounds per game before his injury. Guards Negus Webster-Chan and Jabari Brown, who have had good games rebounding, will need to step up in Saturday's game.

Forward Tony Criswell, who has been out with an injury on his non-dribbling left hand is a game time decision, Haith said. Should he play, he would help Missouri's rebounding.

Whatever the lineup that Haith decides to put together Saturday, the team will have to play its best. Ole Miss is not ranked, but is rising quickly and is an athletic team at 12-2.

"I think they've got a lot of good confidence going into the game on Saturday, and they're very good offensively," Haith said.

Ole Miss beat Tennessee 92-74 in both teams' Southeastern Conference opener Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tenn. Ole Miss broke through a tough Tennessee defense that was second in the nation in scoring defense.

Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson scored a career-high 32 points in the victory. Rebels forwards Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway had double-doubles. Holloway had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Buckner had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

"We got to get back to the fundamentals," Haith said. "Blocking out and making sure we're doing the little things."

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